Pep Guardiola: Man City must tame Anfield to avoid more referee drama

Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City reacts during the Premier League match between Liverpool and Manchester City at Anfield on October 03, 2021 in Liverpool, England
Guardiola and City faces a simply massive game at Anfield - Getty Images/Matt McNulty

Pep Guardiola has urged his Manchester City players to deliver the perfect performance against Liverpool - and ensure they do not run the risk of more refereeing controversy at Anfield.

City have won just once in front of a crowd at Anfield since 1981 but will go top of the table with a victory over Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Guardiola was left raging at the disallowing of a goal by Phil Foden in City’s 1-0 defeat there last season, when the manager implied it was not easy to get decisions at the home of Liverpool.

“This is Anfield,” Guardiola said in sarcastic reference to the famous sign in the players’ tunnel after being left dismayed that Foden’s goal was chalked off by VAR for a shirt pull in the build-up by Erling Haaland on Fabinho.

It was not the first time Guardiola left Anfield feeling hard done by. The City manager was furious his team were not awarded a penalty for a perceived handball by Trent Alexander-Arnold moments before Fabinho scored the opening goal in a 3-1 defeat in November 2019.

And he also felt three major decisions went against his side in their 3-0 Champions League quarter-final, first leg defeat at the ground the year before.

Now Guardiola has told his players they must be close to flawless against Liverpool on Sunday to ensure they are not left nursing any bitter regrets.

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola remonstrates with the fourth official after Phil Foden's goal was disallowed
Guardiola: 'It's not the first time, it won't be the last' - Reuters/Phil Noble

“When that happens you have to perform better,” he said. “You can’t control what happens in the stadium with the refs, all we can do is perform better. That’s what we have to do.

“It’s not the first time, it won’t be the last and all we have to do is perform better. For big achievements, [to win] four titles in a row [this season] that no team has done ever, that’s the challenge we have to face.

“We have to overcome absolutely everything otherwise it will be difficult to win on Sunday. But I am pretty sure we will perform well and whatever happens we have many games to play.”

Asked if referees are intimidated at Anfield, Guardiola added: “All I can handle is our performance - who we are and what we are as a team. That’s all I can deal with. If it happens, it happens, so we will see.”

City’s last visit to Anfield turned toxic with Guardiola claiming coins were thrown at him and Klopp getting sent off for haranguing the match officials while City fans were condemned for tragedy chanting and vandalising concourses with graffiti. City also complained their team bus was attacked again.

Tensions have resurfaced in the wake of this latest clash with Erling Haaland and Ruben Dias hitting back at claims by Alexander-Arnold that success to Liverpool “means more” than City and implying their rivals have merely bought their way to silverware.

Guardiola suggested Alexander-Arnold’s comments were merely a reflection of what many people think at a time when City are being investigated by the Premier League over 115 alleged regulation breaches. But City’s manager urged his players to focus only on securing victory.

Trent Alexander-Arnold of Liverpool and Pep Guardiola, Manager of Manchester City share a joke during the Premier League match between Manchester City and Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on April 10, 2022 in Manchester, England
Guardiola urged his side to not get embroiled in Trent Alexander-Arnold's comments from earlier this week - Getty Images/Michael Regan

“Every club has its own target of being criticised outside,” he said. “Barcelona was completely different from here. We are in a world where the people has an opinion.

“What the right back from Liverpool has said, a lot of people will be thinking. But it’s not news so it’s not necessary to say much.”

Guardiola does not believe the title race will be decided by the outcome of Sunday’s game but would not downplay its importance.

“Last Wednesday [against Copenhagen in the Champions League] it was [a case of] in or out [of the competition], next Saturday it will be in or out with the FA Cup [against Newcastle],” he added.

“But here, while knowing and accepting it’s a really, really important game for the title challenge, I feel that many, many things can still happen.”

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